Thursday, January 6, 2011

Rock Paper Tiger: Ultimately, disappointing

Rock Paper TigerMy rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Ellie McEnroe is an Iraqi vet suffering from PTSD and addicted to painkillers and alcohol. She's living in Beijing after moving to China with her husband, Trey, who leaves her for a Chinese woman.

She hangs out with artists and leads an aimless existence, trying to escape from her own personal horrors from the war.

Somehow, she falls into trouble with both the Chinese government and some Americans (either the government or private contractors, it's unclear which). They chase her all over China, threatening her if she doesn't reveal what she knows about her artist friend's hideaway Uigur (Muslim Chinese), who he was sheltering in his apartment. Yet she knows nothing. In the meantime, her artist friend goes missing.

The book goes back and forth between present-day China (which, I can tell you, is NOTHING like the China I visited in December 1989), and her time in Iraq. Her husband keeps pestering her to sign divorce papers and to cooperate with the "authorities," who he seems to be affiliated with, even though she doesn't know what they need from her.

Ellie's method of communication is a virtual reality game, where friends of the artist (presumably) try to steer her in the right direction...but it's all very unclear what they need from her.

My mother-in-law commented that I seemed to be reading this book for a long period of time. It did seem that way.

It's not that it wasn't readable...I enjoyed reading the descriptions of "new" China, and it had some powerful messages about politics, power, and tyranny in the military and government.

Ellie was a bit of an enigma...we know she was a damaged soul after being traumatized in the war, and we know she was a product of a Christian small town, but we don't know much else about her childhood or upbringing. We don't know why she was not stronger to stand up against injustice.

Ultimately, I was disappointed. After I followed Ellie's journey throughout the book, I wanted more explanation at the end. I wanted to know who was following her and why, and why both the Chinese and the Americans were after her. Was it the American government, or people working for the government?

In the end, all we get are some vague hints. Perhaps that is a message in itself...but I found myself feeling cheated after I had followed Ellie all the way to the end.

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